Mexican President Mocked Over Alleged Photo of Mystical Creature

Mexico's president has been mocked on social media after he posted an image of what he likened to a mystical elf-like being.

On Saturday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador posted two images to Twitter, including one he said had been taken by a train engineer three days earlier, appearing to show an "aluxe."

"Everything is mystical," Obrador wrote to round off his Twitter post.

"Aluxes" are creatures from Mayan mythology, depicted as small elven or goblin-like spirits known for creating mischief. The mythological "aluxes" have a penchant for tricks and small deceptions in Mayan folkloric tales, according to the Associated Press.

But social media users quickly responded that the image had not come from an engineer a matter of days earlier, as the tweet suggested.

An image that appears to be the same photograph as the one shared by Obrador on Saturday was published in February 2021 by Mexican outlet El Debate. The publication said the photo, showing a "witch," may have been taken in the northeastern Mexican state of Nuevo León.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador delivers a press conference about the results of Sunday's midterm elections at the National Palace in Mexico City on June 7, 2021. Obrador published a photo he said had been taken by an engineer working on the government's Mayan Train project, but this was disputed by numerous accounts on social media. ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AE/AFP via Getty Images

The image has also previously circulated on social media and appeared in other publications.

"If you believe it, you are stupid," one Twitter user responded to the post.

The mentioned engineer was teasing or making a joke with the photograph, journalist Angel Pedrero Alonso replied on social media. Pedrero Alonso attached an article with what appears to be the same photo along with an additional image from February 2021, although other social media users then disputed whether the photographs matched.

Obrador has made a "fool of himself," another account added. One Twitter user left a sarcastic reply on the post, calling the post false information, or fake news.

Other Twitter users praised the mention of the country's history, which one commented fosters "a better understanding" of cultures and peoples. Depictions of "aluxes" are "very common in the southeast" of Mexico, another added, describing themselves as a backer of Obrador in their Twitter bio. However, the same user said the photograph of the alleged "alux" had been "taken some years in the past."

It is a "surprising" post to see from an official presidential account, according to Benjamin Smith, a professor at the University of Warwick, U.K.

Smith suggested that politicians on the official left of Mexico's political spectrum, such as Obrador, have "long held particularly romanticized, folkloric ideas about Indigenous beliefs."

He told Newsweek that Obrador had focused on "this somewhat folkloric" aspect of Mayan beliefs around mischievous thieving spirits, in a post that is "pretty in keeping with the 'official left's' attitude to Indigenous people."

The Mexican leader connected the image in the tweet to the construction of the new Tren Maya, or Mayan Train, which is a new train route set to travel through the Yucatán Peninsula in southeast Mexico.

The Mexican government said the train route, connecting Mexico's top tourist destinations such as Cancun with ancient Mayan sites, will improve the lives of those able to access the train, as well as supporting the country's tourism industry.

Covering more than 900 miles through the states of Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo, the government argued the railway will help reduce the time and money it takes to transport passengers and goods across the peninsula.

But the transportation route has sparked fears over the fate of Mexico's wildlife and rainforests from environmental groups and the United Nations.

It's "enormously controversial" as a project, cutting straight through Indigenous lands in southern Mexico, Smith said.

The post also coincided with the weekend in which Obrador's government faced mass protests in Mexico City around electoral reform, Smith noted.